5 facts to consider about Selling Your Home

Everyone has advice about the real estate market, but not all of that unsolicited information is true. So when it comes time to list your home, you’ll need to separate fact from fiction.

Below we’ve identified the top five real estate myths – and debunked them so you can hop on the fast track to selling your property.

Myth #1: I need to redo my kitchen and bathroom before selling

Truth: While kitchens and bathrooms can increase the value of a home, you won’t get a large return on investment if you do a major renovation just before selling.

Minor renovations, on the other hand, may help you sell your home for a higher price. New countertops or new appliances may be just the kind of bait you need to reel in a buyer. Check out comparable listings in your neighborhood, and see what work you need to do to compete in the market.

Myth #2: My home’s exterior isn’t as important as the interior

Truth: Home buyers often make snap judgments based simply on a home’s exterior. Therefore, curb appeal is very important.

A lot of buyers search online or drive by properties before they manade an agent. If the outside is cluttered or the driveway is all broken up, there’s a chance they won’t ever enter the house – they’ll just keep driving.

The good news is that it doesn’t cost a bundle to improve your home’s exterior. Start by cutting the grass, trimming the hedges and clearing away any clutter. Then, for less than R500, you could put up new house numbers, paint the front door, plant some flowers or install a new, more stylish porch light.

Myth #3: If my house is clean, I don’t need to stage it

Truth: Clean and tidy is a good first step, but professional home stagers have raised the bar. Tossing dirty laundry in the closet and sweeping the front steps just aren’t enough anymore.

Stagers make homes appeal to a broad range of tastes. They can skillfully identify ways to highlight your home’s best features and compensate for its shortcomings. They might, for example, recommend removing blinds from a window with a great view or replacing a double bed with a twin to make a bedroom look bigger.

An unstaged house will pale when compared to others on the market.

Myth #4: Granite and stainless steel appliances are old news

Truth: The majority of home shoppers still want granite counters and stainless steel appliances. Quartz, marble and concrete counters also have wide appeal.

Most shoppers just want to steer away from anything that looks dated. When you a design a space, you need to decide if you’re doing it for yourself or for resale potential.”

If you’re not planning to move anytime soon, decorate any way you like. But if you’re planning to put your home on the market within the next couple of years, stick to elements that have mass appeal.

An example is a house recently sold where the kitchen had been remodeled 12 years ago, and everybody thought it had just been done because the owners had chosen timeless elements: dark maple cabinets, granite counters and stainless steel appliances.

Myth #5: Home shoppers can ignore paint colors they don’t like

The truth is that moving is a huge amount of work, and while many home buyers realize they could take on the task of painting walls, they simply don’t want to.

That’s why one of the most important things you can do to update your home is apply a fresh coat of neutral paint. Neutral colors also help a property stand out in online photographs, which is where most potential buyers will get their first impression of your property.

Hiring a professional to paint the interior of an average  ot house will cost around R25 000. You can also buy the paint and do the job yourself for much less by using an Endorsed painter. Either way, if a fresh coat of paint helps your home stand out in a crowded market, it’s probably a worthwhile investment.

Read more: zillow.com

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Remodeling using Reclaimed Wood Flooring

Though reclaimed wood flooring is nothing new, we still had some lingering questions: Is it really eco-friendly? Where exactly does the wood come from? And perhaps most importantly, is reclaimed wood flooring a trend that’s already had its day?

so where eactly does reclaimed wood flooring come from?

The Hudson Company used original face Reclaimed Mixed Softwoods from agrarian sources in this Vermont farmhouse. (See a discussion of new versus original face wood at the end of this post.)

Above: The Hudson Company used original face Reclaimed Mixed Softwoods from agrarian sources in this Vermont farmhouse. (See a discussion of new versus original face wood at the end of this post.) The Hudson Company reclaims wood from two broad sources: agrarian and industrial. Agrarian wood typically comes from barn structures—as siding, joists, beams, and flooring—and geographically from the Ohio River Valley to the northeastern and southern US. The most common species in this category is white oak.

Its industrial wood comes from turn-of-the-century warehouses, water tanks, and factories. It’s generally available in larger dimensions (both width and length), and dominant species are heart pine, similar softwoods such as cedar and redwood, and sometimes maple. This wood has a more contemporary feel to it, and is a newer offering in the reclaimed wood market.

Why choose reclaimed wood flooring?

A mix of reclaimed original face Gray Barn Siding and Brown Board installed in a chevron pattern in the lobby of 1 Hotel Central Park, designed by AvroKo. Above: A mix of reclaimed original face Gray Barn Siding and Brown Board installed in a chevron pattern in the lobby of 1 Hotel Central Park, designed by AvroKo. A person might be interested in a reclaimed wood floor for one of two reasons: One, he or she is after a distinct aesthetic that can’t be achieved using anything else. This person wants the patina, texture, or character of reclaimed wood. Two, there’s an emotional or romantic tie to the history of the wood—perhaps this person is remodeling an old farmhouse and wants the wood that might have originally been used or wants to repurpose some wood found on the property. That’s how we try to help our customers choose a reclaimed wood floor: Are they trying to meet a very specific design intent or trying to replicate a historic floor—or both?

Are there any practical benefits to using reclaimed wood for flooring?

The entryway of a Vermont farmhouse with Reclaimed Mixed Softwoods in a natural finish. Above: The entryway of a Vermont farmhouse with Reclaimed Mixed Softwoods in a natural finish. The decision to use reclaimed wood flooring tends to be driven more by design and story considerations than by practical ones. In addition, debates about the practicality of wood floors hinge on the species of wood—is it a softwood or hardwood, for example—not whether the wood is new or old.

That said, a reclaimed wood floor might encourage its owner to embrace new patina. We installed a reclaimed wood floor in a Brooklyn row house belonging to a family whose kids use the floor heavily: They play soccer on it, host parties, and do arts and crafts, and it’s perfect for them. The family is not stressed when the floor is marred or damaged. To them, it’s new “soul” adding to the patina of the wood.

Is reclaimed wood flooring just a trend?

Reclaimed New Face Oak flooring sourced from barns throughout the mid-Atlantic region, in a bedroom designed by SMVRK Architects. Above: Reclaimed New Face Oak flooring sourced from barns throughout the mid-Atlantic region, in a bedroom designed by SMVRK Architects. Fifteen years ago, modern designers wanted a floor to be a cohesive, very quiet plane. They were using narrow, newly milled white oak planks—either natural or stained dark brown—and there was no allowance for knots or sap. The converse of that is what’s popular now: very long, very wide planks where knots and pith is allowed, so the plank is a sort of celebration of the tree. Reclaimed wood was at the forefront of this shift. There was a reaction to clear wood, devoid of character, and reclaimed wood is the polar opposite of that.

There’s no doubt that reclaimed wood has had its pinnacle moment. It’s the star of a certain “coffee shop aesthetic” that isn’t right for every home.

How can I use reclaimed wood flooring if I don’t want a farmhouse look?

Reclaimed New Face Heart Pine flooring in a Carroll Gardens home remodeled by architect Louis Mackall. Above: Reclaimed New Face Heart Pine flooring in a Carroll Gardens home remodeled by architect Louis Mackall. There are myriad options for finishing the wood, which can steer it toward or away from a traditional or “country” look. You’ll still achieve a character that can only be had with reclaimed wood, but you can enhance or mute different characteristics of the wood to help it read as more traditional or modern. Wood flooring in a typical country aesthetic would have a high-build polyurethane finish with a lot of yellow and amber tones. But a lot of our finishes are low-sheen, and bring out the whites, grays, and fumy browns in the wood.

We used reclaimed heart pine in the Whitney Museum in New York City. When used in more traditional spaces, heart pine has a lot of reds and yellows in it. But we gave it a chalk matte finish that removes some of those tones and enhances the whites within the wood. That gives is a very modern tonality, almost a Scandinavian flavor.

As an alternative approach, in my eyes a lot of innovative modern designers are taking the texture and character of reclaimed wood and introducing it into spaces where it wasn’t there historically. Some designers will use a reclaimed agrarian oak flooring in a high-design, modern space, because the character of the reclaimed wood offers a compelling juxtaposition to crisp, modern lines.

How can I ensure that a reclaimed wood floor will be timeless?

I suggest looking to history when thinking of timelessness. If you’re remodeling an old structure, you’re guaranteed timelessness if you use the species of wood that would have been used in your home originally. It will always belong there, and that’s a feeling that people can capture pretty quickly when they’re in a space.

Sometimes, we’ll take a beam or other wood from a site that’s being gut renovated, and turn that wood into flooring for the new occupants. That floor has an emotional tie to the history of the building.

Specialty floor patterns such as herringbone, chevron, and parquetry will always be timeless designs: They are used in chateau-style French homes and in high-concept modern houses—they fit in both places. And using a reclaimed oak in a pattern like that will inject a lot of soul and history into the floor; using a new-sawn wood in these kinds of patterns can read as awkward or on-trend.

Is reclaimed wood more eco-friendly than newly milled wood?

A farmhouse sitting room and kitchen uses unfinished Reclaimed Mixed Softwoods. Above: A farmhouse sitting room and kitchen uses unfinished Reclaimed Mixed Softwoods. It depends. If you’re after a tree species that is in need of environmental protection, such as teak, then using reclaimed wood is paramount. But if you’re after something like oak, you can still make an environmentally responsible choice with new wood if you’re careful about where it comes from. Of course, there are philosophical undercurrents to reclaimed wood that are nice: You’re diverting material from a waste stream, and prizing a resource and its history.

How does reclaimed wood flooring compare to newly milled wood flooring, price-wise?

A detail of the Reclaimed New Face Oak flooring used in the bedroom shown above. Above: A detail of the Reclaimed New Face Oak flooring used in the bedroom shown above. Again, it depends—there are so many ways that pricing can be impacted, such as in installation or finishing. But generally speaking, reclaimed wood is more expensive than newly milled.

Is there any industry lingo we should know?

It’s helpful to know the difference between original face and new face wood. The original face is essentially the outside of any reclaimed plank or beam. Its patina is derived entirely from its history; we will brush it, clean it, and mill it to be installed as flooring, but the texture and patina the wood has gained over time is at the forefront.

New face is the interior of that same plank or beam. The history you will see is anything that might have affected the interior of the beam, such as nail holes, drying fractures, and deep stains. There is some evidence of history, but at the forefront of new face wood is the tone and characteristics of the actual wood species.

For much more on wood flooring, see Remodeling 101: A Guide to the Only 6 Wood Flooring Styles You Need to Know. And for more remodeling queries answered, see:

Remodeling 101: A Guide to the Only 6 Kitchen Cabinet Styles You Need to Know Remodeling 101: A Primer on Kitchen Countertops Remodeling 101: A Low-Maintenance Guide to Maintaining Soapstone Countertops

N.B.: This post is an update; the original story ran on June 16, 2017.

Read more: remodelista.com

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Navigating the risks of artificial intelligence and machine learning in low-income countries

On a recent work trip, I found myself in a swanky-but-still-hip office of a private tech firm. I was drinking a freshly frothed cappuccino, eyeing a mini-fridge stocked with local beer and standing amidst a group of hoodie-clad software developers typing away diligently at their laptops against a backdrop of Star Wars and xkcd comic wallpaper.

I wasn’t in Silicon Valley: I was in Johannesburg, South Africa, meeting with a firm that is designing machine learning (ML) tools for a local project backed by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Around the world, tech startups are partnering with NGOs to bring machine learning and artificial intelligence to bear on problems that the international aid sector has wrestled with for decades. ML is uncovering new ways to increase crop yields for rural farmers. Computer vision lets us leverage aerial imagery to improve crisis relief efforts. Natural language processing helps us gauge community sentiment in poorly connected areas. I’m excited about what might come from all of this. I’m also worried.

AI and ML have huge promise, but they also have limitations. By nature, they learn from and mimic the status quo — whether or not that status quo is fair or just. We’ve seen AI or ML’s potential to hard-wire or amplify discrimination, exclude minorities or just be rolled out without appropriate safeguards — so we know we should approach these tools with caution. Otherwise, we risk these technologies harming local communities, instead of being engines of progress.

Seemingly benign technical design choices can have far-reaching consequences. In model development, trade-offs are everywhere. Some are obvious and easily quantifiable — like choosing to optimize a model for speed versus precision. Sometimes it’s less clear. How you segment data or choose an output variable, for example, may affect predictive fairness across different sub-populations. You could end up tuning a model to excel for the majority while failing for a minority group.

Image courtesy of Getty Images

These issues matter whether you’re working in Silicon Valley or South Africa, but they’re exacerbated in low-income countries. There is often limited local AI expertise to tap into, and the tools’ more troubling aspects can be compounded by histories of ethnic conflict or systemic exclusion. Based on ongoing research and interviews with aid workers and technology firms, we’ve learned five basic things to keep in mind when applying AI and ML in low-income countries:

Ask who’s not at the table. Often, the people who build the technology are culturally or geographically removed from their customers. This can lead to user-experience failures like Alexa misunderstanding a person’s accent. Or worse. Distant designers may be ill-equipped to spot problems with fairness or representation. A good rule of thumb: If everyone involved in your project has a lot in common with you, then you should probably work hard to bring in new, local voices. Let other people check your work. Not everyone defines fairness the same way, and even really smart people have blind spots. If you share your training data, design to enable external auditing or plan for online testing, you’ll help advance the field by providing an example of how to do things right. You’ll also share risk more broadly and better manage your own ignorance. In the end, you’ll probably end up building something that works better. Doubt your data. A lot of AI conversations assume that we’re swimming in data. In places like the U.S., this might be true. In other countries, it isn’t even close. As of 2017, less than a third of Africa’s 1.25 billion people were online. If you want to use online behavior to learn about Africans’ political views or tastes in cinema, your sample will be disproportionately urban, male and wealthy. Generalize from there and you’re likely to run into trouble. Respect context. A model developed for a particular application may fail catastrophically when taken out of its original context. So pay attention to how things change in different use cases or regions. That may just mean retraining a classifier to recognize new types of buildings, or it could mean challenging ingrained assumptions about human behavior. Automate with care. Keeping humans “in the loop” can slow things down, but their mental models are more nuanced and flexible than your algorithm. Especially when deploying in an unfamiliar environment, it’s safer to take baby steps and make sure things are working the way you thought they would. A poorly vetted tool can do real harm to real people.

AI and ML are still finding their footing in emerging markets. We have the chance to thoughtfully construct how we build these tools into our work so that fairness, transparency and a recognition of our own ignorance are part of our process from day one. Otherwise, we may ultimately alienate or harm people who are already at the margins.

The developers I met in South Africa have embraced these concepts. Their work with the nonprofit Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator has been structured to balance the perspectives of both the coders and those with deep local expertise in youth unemployment; the software developers are even foregoing time at their hip offices to code alongside Harambee’s team. They’ve prioritized inclusivity and context, and they’re approaching the tools with healthy, methodical skepticism. Harambee clearly recognizes the potential of machine learning to help address youth unemployment in South Africa — and they also recognize how critical it is to “get it right.” Here’s hoping that trend catches on with other global startups, too.

Read more: feedproxy.google.com

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